Azerbaijan and Russia exchanged tough statements amid the escalating situation in Nagorno-Karabakh. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, on March 24-25, Azerbaijani troops “entered the area of responsibility of the Russian peacekeeping contingent”, thus violating the tripartite agreement signed on November 9, 2020. In response, Baku accused Russian peacekeepers of failing to withdraw Armenian forces from the region in a year and a half, and expressed dissatisfaction with their use of outdated toponyms such as Nagorno-Karabakh, which Azerbaijan calls the Karabakh economic region.
Relations between the Azerbaijani leadership and the Russian peacekeeping contingent in Nagorno-Karabakh, which have not been the easiest in the past, have seriously strained. On Saturday, March 26, the parties exchanged extremely harsh accusations.
It will be recalled that on the evening of March 24, the Armenian side stated that Azerbaijani forces had crossed the line of contact and occupied the village of Parukh (Azerbaijani name – Farrukh). Similar movements of Azerbaijani troops have previously taken place on the state border between Armenia and Azerbaijan, which has remained controversial since Soviet times, but have never occurred in Karabakh, where the border of control zones is clearly defined by Russian peacekeepers.
Perhaps this is what forced the Russian military to unequivocally support the Armenian side, and not just call on Baku and Yerevan for dialogue. “From March 24 to 25, the armed forces of the Republic of Azerbaijan violated the provisions of the tripartite statement of the leaders of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia on November 9, 2020, entered the area of responsibility of the Russian peacekeeping contingent in Nagorno Karabakh and set up an observation post,” the Russian Defense Ministry said. The statement also said that Azerbaijani troops “struck four Bayraktar-TB2 unmanned aerial vehicles at units of Nagorno-Karabakh armed forces near the town of Furukh.” “A call has been sent to the Azerbaijani side to withdraw troops,” the Russian military said.
The response from Baku followed immediately, with claims including toponyms used in the Russian document. “There is no administrative-territorial unit called” Nagorno Karabakh “in Azerbaijan. The name of the village mentioned in the statement is not Furukh, but Farrukh, ”the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry said. Earlier, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev also insisted that instead of the Soviet term “Nagorno-Karabakh”, one should use simply “Karabakh” (which includes not only mountains but also lowland) or “Karabakh Economic Region”, which is enshrined in Azerbaijani law.
In general, the Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan called the Russian statement “unilateral, not reflecting reality.” The incident on the line of demarcation, according to Baku, was discussed “on March 25 during a telephone conversation between Defense Minister Colonel-General Zakir Hasanov and Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation General of the Army Sergei Shoigu.” “During the conversation, the Azerbaijani side stated that the positions and locations are being clarified at the checkpoints,” the ministry said. As a result of immediate measures, members of the illegal Armenian armed forces were forced to retreat. “
“The Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Azerbaijan calls on the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation to ensure the complete withdrawal of the remnants of the Armenian army and illegal Armenian armed groups from the internationally recognized territories of Azerbaijan,” the ministry said. Recalling the Declaration on Allied Cooperation between Russia and Azerbaijan, signed during Ilham Aliyev’s visit to Moscow on February 22, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry noted that the statement of the Russian military, in his opinion, “contradicts the nature” of this document.
Thus, Baku returned to the dispute, which has been going on since the end of 2020 and concerns the interpretation of the tripartite agreement. The fourth point, cited by the Azerbaijani military, states that “the peacekeeping contingent of the Russian Federation is being deployed in parallel with the withdrawal of the Armenian armed forces.” However, the Armenian side insists that this requirement applies only to the Agdam, Kelbajar and Lachin districts, which were returned to Azerbaijani control immediately after the war, and military presence is allowed in the area of Russian peacekeepers.
The issue is complicated by the fact that all Armenian military units in Nagorno Karabakh in Armenia consider Artsakh’s defense army (Armenian name of the region), ie local forces, and claim that they do not include Armenian conscripts.
Armenian political scientist Tigran Grigoryan confirmed to Kommersant that this is Yerevan’s position. “The disarmament of the Nagorno-Karabakh Defense Army in the tripartite statement of November 9, 2020 is out of the question,” he told Kommersant. from which Armenia had to withdraw its troops are Lachin, Agdam, Kelbajar districts. There is no Armenian army in Karabakh, there is the NKR Defense Army, which consists of volunteers, contractors and local conscripts. That is, statements about the withdrawal of Armenian troops from Karabakh or the disarmament of the Karabakh army are a complete manipulation. “
In turn, Kommersant’s interlocutor in Baku, political analyst Farhad Mammadov, is convinced otherwise: the November 9, 2020 statement calls for the withdrawal of all Armenian armed units from the region, not just the current Armenian army. According to him, the wording “withdrawal of the Armenian armed forces” used in the document “implies the complete demilitarization of the region, including the disarmament of the Armenians of Karabakh.”
“It’s not just about Armenia’s military personnel, but about everyone whose last name ends in” yang, “says Mammadov.” Such a wording was used specifically.
As for the accusation by Russia that the Azerbaijani military entered the territory of peacekeepers, his expert considers it insolvent. “The borders of the control zones in Karabakh exist only for the Russian military,” he said. Let me remind you that the mandate of Russian peacekeepers has not been determined yet. And since Baku is only talking about clarifying the positions, there are no violations of the first paragraph of the agreement – that “the Republic of Azerbaijan and Armenia will dwell on their positions,” – there are none. “